May 6 - Frontrunner Socialist leader Francois Hollande and President Nicolas Sarkozy cast their ballots in a close runoff that Hollande is tipped to win. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
(ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION) President Nicolas Sarkozy and rival Francois Hollande cast their votes in France's presidential election run-off on Sunday, amid predictions the incumbent is heading for defeat. The vote could make Sarkozy the 11th European leader to be swept from office by the economic crisis and crown Hollande as France's first Socialist president in 17 years. As Sarkozy arrived to vote with his wife Carla Bruni, crowds of supporters turned out to greet him, chanting "president!". But, buoyed by a tide of anger over Sarkozy's inability to rein in rampant unemployment during his five-year term, Hollande was between four and eight points ahead in final opinion polls for a vote that could mean a shift in direction for Europe. Despite shaving a couple of points off Hollande's lead in the last days of a frenetic campaign, the conservative's own aides privately admitted it would require a miracle for him to turn the odds in his favour and clinch a second term. In two further blows in the last days of the race, both far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who came third in an April first-round vote with 17.9 percent, and centrist Francois Bayrou, who came fifth with 9.1 percent, refused to endorse Sarkozy. While Sarkozy spent Saturday in the privacy of his home in Paris with his wife Carla Bruni, Hollande and his journalist partner Valerie Trierweiler were out shaking hands with supporters, signing autographs and sampling cheese and strawberries in rural France.